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Leopard Tortoise – Part 3 of Africa’s Little 5


A leopard tortoise.
Being the fourth largest tortoise species on the planet, these animals can grow up to 28 inches in size. Tortoises have been around since the dinosaur age, and this particular species can live up to 100 years. 

The Leopard Tortoise has a high and domed-like shell, with pyramid shapes. Its shell pattern helps to camouflage it in its surroundings. They can easily walk across rocky terrain and can even stay under water for up to 10 minutes.


These guys prefer semi-dry shrubby or savannah like areas to grassland and may set up home in abandoned fox, jackal or even ant eater holes. The Leopard Tortoises are found from up north in Sudan right down to the Southern Cape. They love to take shelter from the sweltering African sun under bushes or trees.

Grazing on grass.

Tortoises are known to be more defensive than fighters and are not aggressive. When feeling threatened they will retract their heads and feet into their shell for protection. They are sensitive to sounds lower than 1000hz. When kept in captivity they do grow faster than in the wild and also sexually mature at a faster rate.


Being herbivores they are grazers eating grass, succulents, thistles and fruits such as berries. However they will sometimes eat bones for the calcium intake.


They reach their sexual maturity between the ages of 12 and 15 years old in the wild. The female who is often larger than the male, lays a clutch of 5 to 18 eggs in a hole she dug with her back legs. Males have a longer and thicker tail, making it easier for us to determine gender along with comparing their size.

What a cutie! A baby leopard tortoise. 
When adults they don’t have natural predators but are caught by people for pet-trading and to be eaten by the locals in villages. Despite being sold into the pet trade they sometimes do not take well to being kept in captivity.  

These cute guys can be found right here in the Deep South of Cape Town, there are another 7 species found throughout the Western Cape.

Did you know?

If a tortoise lands on its back it may not be able to turn itself around and can die from exposure to the sun. If you find one wrong way round, turn it over and watch it walk merrily on its way.

Watch the tortoise turn his tortoise buddy over!


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